Indulging in afternoon tea is a time-honoured tradition where time slows down as every sip and bite is savoured.
Cups and saucers lined up at Tea at Grand Rapids (Photo: Courtesy of Bridgette M. Redman)
Throughout Michigan, a treasure trove of enchanting tea experiences awaits, from grand and formal settings that hark back to afternoon tea’s British origins to whimsical Alice in Wonderland-inspired affairs. This article will be your guide to discovering the best places in Michigan for partaking in this charming ritual, each offering its own unique blend of flavors and tradition. Available in stand-alone tea shops tucked away in personality-filled neighborhoods or taking up the grand parlors of luxury hotels, these experiences run the gamut, offering something for all those who seek out a civilized afternoon of tea, sandwiches and scones.
High Tea Grand Rapids
One of the newest establishments on this list, High Tea Grand Rapids opened in spring 2023, the dream child of a Grand Rapids resident in love with all things London. Tucked away in the eclectic neighborhood of Grand Rapids, the restaurant exudes British character and charm. The décor imitates London manor homes and the table settings are designed and custom monogrammed to match the restaurant’s logo. The staff tested several scone recipes until they got the perfect combination, served warm with clotted cream, preserves and seasonal offerings such as milk-tea cream. They offer four different tea services: the full afternoon tea, a cream tea, a tiffin and a fairy tea. The afternoon tea includes everything from a pot of tea (and two refills), scones, savory items and sweets. The cream tea has only scones and tea while the tiffin has just sandwiches and tea. The fairy tea is designed for under-12s and is served with savories, scones and sweets along with a decaffeinated lemonade tea.
1522 Wealthy Street, Grand Rapids
Inn at Bay Harbor
Tea at the Inn at Bay Harbor is such a special event that some people make annual pilgrimages to take in the ritual – sometimes with friends, sometimes with a book. And the staff sets out to make it a memorable experience by customizing it to guest preferences. It can be served on the beach, in front of the hotel’s fireplace, on the patio, or anywhere else across the sprawling resort. Variety is built into the whole meal, with plenty of teas and accompaniments (think brown and white sugar cubes, honey, cream, and the like), different kinds of pastries, many different savories from sandwiches to cucumber rounds to salmon and cream cheese bites, and desserts that include seasonal fruit, cookies and cakes. All is served in the traditional manner, with exceptions made to personalize each guest experience. The teas are served daily from 2pm- 4pm, but reservations must be made 48 hours in advance so that everything can be custom-prepared.
3600 Village Harbor Drive, Bay Harbor
The Purple Door Tea Room
Ferndale is a town known for its artistic, eclectic and welcoming atmosphere – the perfect place for a tea house that eschews chain conventionality and monotonous uniformity. Instead, it merges a collection of antique and antique-adjacent furnishings, lace tablecloths, fresh flowers, delicate china and cozy decor to create a space where both inner and actual children can delight in the prospect of a tea party with their besties. One walks through a small urban garden to indulge in any of five different tea experiences (with the most elaborate requiring a 24-hour reservation). All include a selection of teas and then choices of salad, sandwiches, soup and dessert. Unlike other afternoon teas on this list, they serve the tea in courses and not all in one go on the traditional three-tier trays. They host parties, meetings, showers and birthday gatherings. It’s designed to be a civilized experience in a charming environment where children act like little aristocrats and adults spend quiet, genial time together.
701 Livernois Street, Ferndale
The Four Seasons Tea Room
Way north in the Upper Peninsula, almost to Wisconsin and Minnesota, The Four Seasons Tea Room brings quiet culture to Copper County. They opened in October 2002 in a 100-year-old building that used to be an apothecary. The mother-and-daughter team installed their collections of china and glass into the shop and created a menu based on their love for cooking, baking and entertaining. Their tea menu (with more than 100 choices) includes several afternoon tea options served on a 3-tiered tray complete with sandwiches, sweets and scones. Those seeking a lighter spread can settle for a cream tea (scones and cake) or a desert tea. They also serve up seasonal specialties from summer salads to Christmas cakes, and host regular special events such as tea tastings and private parties.
606 Shelden Avenue, Houghton
The Grand Hotel Afternoon Tea
One of Michigan’s most famous afternoon teas takes place at the historic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The British tea ritual is re-created in the hotel’s parlor, a room beautifully designed by Carleton Varney. Those who prefer can take their tea on the famous porch—the world’s longest, it is claimed. The hotel partners with Steven Smith TeaMaker to offer premium teas paired with small bites prepared by the hotel’s culinary team. In addition to tea, you can sip champagne or sherry. Food includes finger sandwiches, fresh-caught fish, macarons, fruit, and chocolate-covered strawberries, and the scones come with the Grand Hotel’s signature private label raspberry preserves. Throughout the parlor – in the tea cups, the carpeting and on the tables – you’ll see depictions of the hotel’s famous geraniums. Served from 3.30pm to 5pm daily, tea here also features live classical music performed by the hotel’s resident harpist.
286 Grand Avenue, Mackinac Island
Governor Croswell Tea House
In the historic downtown district of Adrian, a tea room has taken up residence in a building that has been around since the late 1800s. The Governor Croswell Tea Room, named in honor of Governor Charles Miller Croswell, an Adrian resident who governed the state from 1877 to 1881, is now owned by Al and Phyllis Wilkerson, two retired educators who wanted to provide a “china and linen” English tea experience to Al’s hometown. Following British traditions, they strive to provide a personal touch to each guest’s experience. For those seeking the traditional tea experience, they can reserve High Tea, Afternoon Delight or the Tea Sandwich Trio. The first two include pots of tea, while High Tea is served with mini quiches, mini desserts and scones. Afternoon Delight, meanwhile, features scones. They also welcome young people with either the “Little Lady/Gentleman High Tea” (triangle-shaped tea sandwiches, a mini-quiche, fruit cups) or “The Wee Folk” (triangle-shaped tea sandwiches with a choice of cheese, cream cheese or peanut butter and jelly, goldfish crackers and animal crackers). All children also get their own pot of tea with a choice of white or chocolate milk, apple juice, hot cocoa or tea. Those who want to take home some of the experience can purchase whole quiches (with a day’s notice), a dozen cheddar muffins with dill butter or a dozen scones with condiments. Their signature sweets come in full or petite portions.
125 East Maumee, Adrian
Royal Treat Tea Room/The Pink House Tea Room
Striking gold with a scone recipe is what led Jennifer Colombo to open two tea houses in the Detroit area, each with their own special charm. The first was Roseville’s Royal Treat Tea Room in 2010 followed by The Pink House Tea Room in 2020 – the latter part of a bed and breakfast. Through the years, friends and family have given her china from around the world and family heirlooms that decorate the tables and walls of her tea rooms. While she offers English luncheons, the tea experience includes scones with lemon curd and Devonshire cream, tea, an entree and a salad. Entrees include quiches, frittatas and homemade chicken salad. A daily dessert is available separately. Both locations serve their teas in indoors and outdoors, with an increased capacity for groups who want to host larger tea parties. Visitors from afar can get their fix by ordering some of the goodies online.
Royal Treat Tea Room: 28750 Utica Road, Roseville
Pink House Tea Room: 36341 Front Street, New Baltimore